Thu | Nov 23, 2017

JaRistotle’s Jottings | Jamaica, land of jacks and asses

Published:Thursday | October 19, 2017 | 12:00 AM

There is a saying that to assume is to make an ass of you and me. I assume that Jamaican politicos have the country's best interest at heart and that we people are their priority. If you believe that I have a bridge to sell you just call 1-888-IDIOT.

It pains me to think of the constant pillaging of the national treasury, of the billions of dollars of taxpayers' money that is being poorly managed, money which is benefiting jacks rather than the people of Jamaica. We the asses continue to allow them to get away with such practices, so much so that they now think it is a rite of passage.

Recent media reports quote Prime Minister (PM) Andrew Holness as saying that houses constructed by a government agency under the auspices of the previous administration at a unit cost of $11 million had been sold for $4.5 million each - essentially at a loss of $6.5 million per unit. The same reports have the PM referring to a similar housing project in Boscobel that realised cost overruns of approximately $800 million. Conclusion: this loss to us, the people of Jamaica, naturally translates into a profit for others.

The PM is quoted as saying he had considered shutting down the government agency at the heart of these two issues, the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ). Fact is, he did not, and the billion-dollar question is, why not?

The HAJ is no newcomer to controversy of this nature. In 2015, the auditor general reported that "the government [people of Jamaica] did not receive value for money in an almost $9-billion project implemented by the HAJ, and that the agency did not engage the principles of good governance in its implementation of the Jamaica Economical Housing Project (JEHP), and that although the project was significantly scaled down by the HAJ, the contract value remained unchanged".

So back to the question of why didn't the PM shut down the HAJ? The answer is simple. The HAJ and other executive agencies are tools for advancing party agendas without having to be subject to appropriate scrutiny. The hiring of lackeys who report to activist-dominated boards readily circumvents the processes of transparency and accountability. Public monies can then be applied to programmes that are more attuned to the interests of the party: jacks win, asses lose.

If the Jamaica Civil Service Association had stood against these wasteful politically driven, if not corrupt practices, that have become commonplace within executive agencies and protected the jobs of civil servants against manipulation they would have sent a strong message: we are not asses, don't dare treat us as such. Alas, they failed to act.

 

FINANCIAL DEALINGS

 

So, in my opinion, the PM's talk of shut down is 'ullo'. Jacks need agencies like the HAJ to provide slush funds for those less-the-public-knows-the-better activities. And while we the asses are aware of this malpractice, jacks continue to rape us simply because we allow them to. We have public institutions that bring these issues to light, yet the appropriate closure remains elusive. Jeanette Calder (Sunday Gleaner; August 27, 2017) highlighted reports tabled by the auditor general covering 2009-2011 which "outlined instances of waste, losses, unsupported payments, etc, amounting to $6 billion-plus, almost matching the $6.3 billion budget for national security and health for this 2017-2018".

Although these issues are presented to Parliament, what can we expect other than banter when the culprits in question are bosom buddies of our politicos, jacks all. The auditor general, like the contractor general, submits reports which speak to questionable financial dealings, yet no one starts a criminal investigation because the matter has not been appropriately referred to them for action!

Why isn't the director of public prosecutions (DPP) able to take a more active role in pursuing these jacks? Once there is a hint of impropriety during audits or contract reviews, the DPP should automatically become involved in steering investigations so as to adduce sufficient evidence as to what, where, when, how and by who.

We weren't born asses, but if we sit idly by and not take matters into our own hands then we deserve to be treated as such. We must become the jacks and uproot the tree that houses the giants of corruption.